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What is Weaving?

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horse tied at trailer

A horse may weave at a horse show, in response to the stress of preforming.

Image: K. Blocksdorf

Question: What is Weaving?

Answer: When a horse swings it head from side to side in a repetitive motion it is said to be weaving. The horse may only swing its head, or it may sway its entire forequarters and lift a front leg with each sway. This habitual motion is called a locomotor stereotypy. Locomotor refers to the motion and a stereotypy is a continually repeated habitual behavior. So another locomotor stereotypy would be stall or stall walking. An oral stereotypy would be cribbing. The horse may stand facing a wall, appearing to tune out to all activity around it, or it may have a favorite spot with its head hung over a door, stall wall or fence partition.

Some horses will weave while being trailered, which can lead to injury and an unsteady load for the driver to cope with. 

This habit is similar to an obsessive compulsive disorder in humans and there is some speculation that the behavior triggers the release of endorphins that calm a stressful horse. A horse that stall walks or weaves very quickly and anxiously may be exhibiting a flight response, with its motivation to flee. The inability to move naturally because the horse is kept in a stall for much of the time can trigger the habit.

Weaving is called a stable vice, but the horse isn’t misbehaving when it weaves or trying to be intentionally annoying or dangerous. Weaving is caused by stress, usually in response to its management.

 

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